Mom and I
when she was young
and I younger
I saw this
in her eyes
and wanted to solve
|For These Times||
Mom and I
when she was young
and I younger
I saw this
in her eyes
and wanted to solve
After I lit the Yahrzeit candle that morning (trying to think of mom) I drove to the bank and a senior crowd was there. They all couldn't hear and were belligerent and loud. One lady walked out. The manager, a younger woman who complimented me on my calves (I had been walking a lot) told me two seniors had yelled at her. It was a crazy environment. I suppose the seniors are scared and angry.
Anyhow, I was waiting in the lobby across from a lady who had my mom's eyes; suspicious, fearful, horrified, and judgmental (all at certain moments). They were her eyes for sure. There was a very primitive emotional state in those eyes. My allergies that morning had made it difficult to think of mom and here I was, doing a chore, looking at mom’s eyes opposite me in the raw.
My mom used to call me a “selfish bas....” Humorously I would call my friend Ruth "selfish bas...." in honor of my mom.
Mom and questions
In her young years my mom wasn't all that well. She taught school, was good on the job, but when home she needed rest and my dad did most of the chores. She had Crones disease and was operated on and had some of her intestine removed. She was often moody and inconsistent and emotional and demanding. She lived until she was 89, but the last 5 years she was not well at all. I recall how as a young man I had bad allergies and some asthma. She was not always the most sympathetic. Maybe she just lacked the raw energy to be, and didn't have the reserve for one more negative in her life. Whatever the reason, she was not a nourisher.
Well, the last two years of her life she suffered a total breakdown of her body. Piece by piece it caved in on her. We had good long distant conversations and she didn't complain to me, maybe a noble act. My sister called her a “silent sufferer.” We both expected more complaining, something she had done when younger. But she kept just to herself.
One day on the phone with my sister, she said “I wonder if mom is suffering so greatly because of some kind of retribution?" Hmmm. Everything that could go wrong with her did. One medical treatment contradicted another with no coordinating center. The doctors she always had worshiped ended up not being of much help and there was nowhere to turn. So she suffered silently. Was some of this pain from wrongs she had committed? Personally when she ignored me or was impatient with my discomforts, was this a payback? How about others she did not sympathize with? Or was this from some spiritual denial? Was this caused by a character flaw?
Does it really work this way? Am I any better? Won't my flaws become apparent? Don't I deny too? Was mom just another flawed person who through fate met an unpleasant end? Or are there levels, and each level has an appropriate suffering?
Somehow, someway, it was probably a touch of everything plus something mysteriously more.
Some care shown to mom
When I visited mom and dad I saw mom’s feet. They were horribly swollen as were her legs and knees. She was on different medications, each one conflicting with the other. The doctors were not coordinated. She was also having trouble sleeping, getting maybe 2 hours per night.
During my five day stay each day I would spend 30 minutes massaging her feet. She told me at night they would suddenly constrict and tighten and wake her up violently. I worked on them, using manipulation, pressure points, muscle massage and instincts to relax the pressure. I knew this was a symptom, not a cause but maybe loosening the area would allow her to sleep. For five nights she slept around five hours per night. I think one night she had difficulty, and that may be because I didn't work on her that day. My father had taken her to numerous doctors about her sleep problem. What I did was a solution. Real effort, and time, and care, and energy were required. No doctors or anyone else were willing to do this.
I think for three mornings we exercised for 20 minutes and that helped her. On her own, she didn't continue the exercises. My dad didn't massage her feet, nor did he pay someone to do it. I didn't and couldn't stay. Continuing my life, and not stopping it while in motion, was the choice I made. This choice I made haunts me a bit. My mom said there is a price for everything. How true. But at least for four to five days I showed my mom care and love and sacrifice.
Small observations of mom
Mom used to sing. She appreciated things. She liked positive talk.
When older, she sometimes made an effort to exercise.
Mom commented and listened
(took place 7-8 years ago)
While in New York, mom and dad and I would have a small dinner. Their energy to give was very limited, and much of it came from my dad. I had Health Valley vegetable soup which hit the spot.
I showed mom prints of my drawings. First we looked at the drawing I did of ballet slippers. She commented that the lace was too light because it doesn't differentiate from the instep of the slippers. She was not sure where the shoe began or ended. I think the prints did not have enough contrast for her, nor enough “wow” factor and they were too monotone. How much had to do with her eyesight I'm not certain.
She said, people like something clear, that makes sense right away. She suggested that where my outline was light, I should darken it. I explained that I work optically and follow what the light does. I said the mass of the shoe was being hit with light and I drew it as such. She suggested I enclose it with one outline, which I sometimes I did when not working totally optically. I had to, and still have to digest her comments. I'm not sure if they were very deep or very superficial or a mix but I was glad for the involvement.
I talked further about the optical way I see, that being colored shapes varying in value. It was not by chance, because for eleven months in Minneapolis my eye was trained to see this way and it seems to have been imprinted now in the way I see, for good or bad. This is in contrast to how I would have liked to have learned, that is by borrowing from nature while having an internal language and incorporating nature into this language. I attempt this but my knowledge is limited and is not at the highest level. The work I do in this manner, I consider my more narrative works. They are less objective but they are clearer. Mom seemed to like them more.
Surprisingly she seemed to “get” the different methods of working that I was talking about. After all these years she does seem to “get it.”
I also explained how I don't have the benefit of north lighting, which is steady and consistent. I went on to say the light is different in the morning and afternoons, either cloudy and sunny, and how when starting drawings, I can use yellow light but later I need natural light. What I hoped to achieve is an overall impression, an average of all the lights. This might sacrifice the power of one consistent light source, but it is an accommodation I have had to work with. She listened.
As a kid
if the window was up
mom told me to put it down.
If the window was down
mom told me to put it up.
It wasn’t about the weather,
it was about pleasing her.
If people came over
and it was too quiet
she nudged me
and I filled in the gaps
making things social and smooth.
In New York
when I was wronged
I tried to defend myself.
One day she said
“you’re always getting into trouble.”
After that I always avoided trouble.
who I might have been
had I been left alone.
Sometimes my mom’s statements leave me speechless. An example is when my father said “In the future...” and my mom blurted in “what future.” She sometimes shows no control, nor is there any comfort in her tone. It’s the original trauma I had with her revisited. This tone was crippling way back when, and it is relived when she talks like this. Normally a feeling of protection should come from a mom. This is the opposite, more like desertion. You are left feeling naked.
Steven B. Nussdorf records his lifelong search to find meaning outside of the normal channels. He uses writing, poetry, and drawing to document this effort.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.